OMA 2017 Student Scholarship Blog Series: Issue 1

The Ohio Museums Association is committed to connecting and empowering museum professionals at all stages of their career — including our student and emerging museum professionals!

For our 2017 OMA Annual Conference , OMA was very proud to offer three students seeking careers in the museum field, scholarships to attend OMA 2017 in Toledo.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing from each scholarship recipient about their OMA conference experience.

Below is the first installment, by Katie May.  Ms. May is a Museum Studies and History double major at Walsh University.  Katie is also currently working as a Temporary Strategy and Collections Assistant at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Assimilating Wisdom at OMA 2017

Katie May

As a freshman Museum Studies major at Walsh University, attending the Ohio Museums Association’s annual conference offered the unique opportunity to gain an extensive perspective of the museum field to compliment my studies. Acclimating to the needs and interests of society is a perpetual issue faced by museums, and tailoring an institution’s approach to the public is not factual knowledge but a skill that is learned during the course of a career. I was incredibly eager to learn from the wisdom of statewide professionals about ways to develop and apply transformative ideas in order to maintain an institution’s relevance.

One of my favorite experiences from the conference was attending the “Institutional Transitions: New Brands, New Buildings, New Opportunities” session. The speakers gave honest testimonies about the challenges and successes experienced during several institutions’ transformations. It was neat to observe the various ways museums are being reinvented, and to learn the purpose and thought process behind such decisions.

All the speakers touched on the idea that the motivations for their changes were community-focused, specifically to form new connections with a more diverse audience. COSI’s interpretation of a museum’s neighborhood as an ecosystem definitely reshaped my perception of an institution’s purpose and its service to the community. The idea of a cooperative relationship between a museum and its community deepened my understanding of the potential a museum has to better society, and vice versa.

The conversation of the importance of museums continued during the Keynote Leadership Panel later that day. It was an honor to be in attendance and learn from the expertise of such accomplished professionals. Given the diverse backgrounds of each panelist, the discussion offered multiple angles regarding museum transformations. Two specific concepts resonated greatly with me: the need to alter an institution’s approach to transformations, and the need for society to see the importance of museums.

Both Nannette Maciejunes of the Columbus Museum of Art and Brian Kennedy of the Toledo Museum of Art provided simple, effective alternatives to traditional practices that have the potential to play a critical role in a transformation. They described the value of attracting a diverse staff for expansive ideas and to offer a broader audience the opportunity to identify with an institution, and the benefits of focusing on the power of an idea rather than strictly searching for capital support.

A statement that I found to be quite compelling was Frederic Bertley’s belief that museums need to change society’s perspective of cultural institutions from being nice to necessary. To me, this comment defines the objective of a transformation and the significance of the museum field altogether.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience to be exposed to the museum field in such a formal way this early in my career. I am grateful to OMA for the wonderful opportunity and the professionals who reached out and offered their support. Through the sessions, Keynote Leadership Panel, and networking opportunities I learned how an inclusive, proactive mindset can help an institution achieve relevance within its community. I am very excited to apply the knowledge I acquired from this year’s conference to the remainder of my studies and future career-related opportunities!